32 bits or 64 bits: that is the question
January 23, 2012 7:32 PM   Subscribe

I want to install Ubuntu on my Mac Book Pro. Do I download the 32-bit or 64-bit version?

The download page for Ubuntu says that the 32-bit version is recommended for download.

I thought that 64-bit OSes were the future?

Which should I download?
posted by dfriedman to Computers & Internet (14 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Assuming your MBP is a recent model (within the past five or six years, I think), go with the 64-bit version.
posted by The Master and Margarita Mix at 7:34 PM on January 23, 2012

Best answer: It depends on your machine. What year is your Macbook Pro?

Going forward, I install 64-bit most of the time, it rarely results in any problems.
posted by InsanePenguin at 7:34 PM on January 23, 2012

FWIW, I'm running Lion on my 2007 MBP, and Lion is 64-bit.
posted by InsanePenguin at 7:35 PM on January 23, 2012

Depends. Drivers for 32-bit versions are often better.
posted by scruss at 7:35 PM on January 23, 2012

Response by poster: 2011 MBP.

Sounds like I should just download the 64 bit one.
posted by dfriedman at 7:36 PM on January 23, 2012

posted by thewalrus at 7:38 PM on January 23, 2012

IIRC flash on 64 bit Linux is painful.
posted by joshu at 8:28 PM on January 23, 2012

Flash in 64-bit Linux works marvelously (well, as marvelously as any Adobe product). My most recent desktop install of 11.10 didn't take any hand-waving or console commands or anything to get it working.
posted by introp at 8:41 PM on January 23, 2012 [1 favorite]

64-bit also has one big advantage. If you want to run VMware Workstation 8.0.x on a v3.x Linux kernel OS, I think it now requires a 64-bit OS and fully 64-bit CPU.
posted by thewalrus at 8:50 PM on January 23, 2012

Response by poster: Incidentally, what's the best way to install it? As a virtual machine? Or as its own bootable partition?

512gb SSD, 8gb RAM...
posted by dfriedman at 9:14 PM on January 23, 2012

It'll run faster on its own bootable partition, but running it in a VM (like Parallels) is an easier install and may be better if you're just playing around. What are your reasons for wanting Linux on your Mac?

FWIW, the last time I tried running 64-bit Ubuntu, it was a nightmare getting drivers for my peripherals (printer, scanner, sound....). I quickly went back to 32-bit. But that was a couple years ago.
posted by richyoung at 9:40 PM on January 23, 2012

Adobe Flash Player used to be about the only truly compelling reason for sticking with 32 bit Linux installs, but they now have a 64 bit Linux version that works about as well as their 32 bit one.

On the other hand, if you don't actually need to run processes that consume more than 3GB each and you don't have plans to install more than 64GB of RAM in your computer, there's still no compelling reason to pick a 64-bit Linux; unlike 32-bit Windows, a 32-bit-with-PAE Linux will happily use more than 3GB of your installed RAM.

In theory the 64-bit extended x86 instruction set is a better design than the 32-bit set, but in practice it's pretty much a performance wash because a 64-bit program will typically use more code space than its 32-bit equivalent and therefore make less efficient use of whatever RAM you have.

Flip a coin.
posted by flabdablet at 11:56 PM on January 23, 2012

If you want your coin flip preference confused by meaningless numbers, here they are.
posted by flabdablet at 12:01 AM on January 24, 2012

Googlers of a future age: here is Apple's official guide to figuring out if your Mac is 32 or 64 bit.
posted by Ian A.T. at 1:33 AM on January 24, 2012 [1 favorite]

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